Lionel Messi finalized the agreement on his Paris Saint-Germain contract and arrived in the French capital on Tuesday to complete the move that confirms the end of a career-long association with Barcelona.
Lionel Messi finalized agreement on his Paris Saint-Germain contract and arrived in the French capital on Tuesday to complete the move that confirms the end of a career-long association with Barcelona.
Dozens of PSG fans gathered at Le Bourget Airport in Paris to welcome Messi, who was wearing a T-shirt featuring the phrase “Ici c’est Paris” — “Here is Paris.”
A person with knowledge of the negotiations who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said Messi agreed to a two-year deal with the option for a further season and said the 34-year-old is expected to earn around $41 million US annually ($51 million Cdn).
Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, also confirmed his son was moving to PSG in a brief exchange with reporters at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport on Tuesday.
At the same airport, Messi was later seen arriving with his wife and three children before boarding a private jet.
“With it all, toward a new adventure. The five together,” Antonela Roccuzzo said on Instagram alongside a photo with her husband on the plane.
Messi, who established himself as one of the world’s greatest footballers during a glittering stay at Barcelona, is the record goal-scorer for both Argentina and Barcelona.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner, wept on Sunday as he bade farewell to his boyhood team after the club said it could no longer afford to keep him, blaming La Liga’s fair play rules.
Frontline already formidable
Messi won every major honour with Barcelona — he is the club’s all-time record scorer with 682 goals — and only Cristiano Ronaldo in the current era challenges his status as an all-time great.
The PSG frontline is already formidable, with Messi’s former Barca teammate Neymar and young France striker Kylian Mbappe seen as two of the best players on the planet.
“Back together,” Neymar posted on Instagram over a video of them hugging while playing for Barcelona.
While PSG had to pay 222 million euros (then $261 million US) to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017, there was no transfer fee for Messi, who became the most desired free agent in soccer history after his attempts to stay at Barcelona were rejected last week by the Spanish league. His salary would not comply with financial regulations, with the Catalan club burdened by debts of more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion US).
Messi on right side, Neymar on left?
PSG will be hoping not only that Messi helps the team regain the French title it lost to Lille last season, but finally win the Champions League.
Messi is the latest big-name arrival at PSG on a free transfer this summer after coach Mauricio Pochettino’s side snapped up Spanish defender Sergio Ramos after he left Real Madrid.
Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum also joined after running down his contract with Liverpool.
Thank you, Leo. pic.twitter.com/cdS9xWe8Me
Italy’s Euro 2020-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has also joined after his contract with AC Milan ran out, while Moroccan fullback Achraf Hakimi joined from Inter Milan for a reported 60 million euros ($88 million Cdn).
If Pochettino uses a 4-3-3 formation, the front three could see Messi deployed on the right with Neymar on the left and Mbappe between them as the centre forward.
Debate over financial fair play rules
The arrival of Messi, whose last contract with Barca was worth a total of 555 million euros and reported to be the most lucrative in world sport, is also set to provoke a renewed debate about financial fair play rules in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
Some flexibility has been provided in the rules due to the pandemic and changes are due to the system that was designed to stem club financial losses.
It is PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi who, as chairman of the European Club Association and a member of UEFA’s executive committee, is involved in the process of discussing a wider update to financial fair play that could allow more unchecked spending again.
The rules were first introduced in 2009 to restrict some of the worst excesses of the game but have been criticized by some leading figures for being ineffective.
The arrival of Messi, who has 245 million followers on Instagram and is Barcelona’s most decorated player of all time, is also welcome news for France’s Ligue 1, embroiled in a crisis over TV rights.